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Microtrends, Ultra-Fast Fashion, and the Overconsumption Cycle

Naman Bajaj
February 9, 2024
trendy-shopping

At their best, trends can inspire us to look into our closets and rediscover items we haven't worn in years. In 2023, low-rise denim, beige Birkenstock Bostons, Adidas Sambas, and sporty sunnies all made trendy comebacks. 

But at their worst, trends make us feel pressured to buy new clothes and accessories just to fit the current style. With trends getting shorter than ever, microtrends motivate a monumental amount of overconsumption and waste.

What are microtrends?

Microtrends are accelerated trends that last a month instead of a season. Think ugly dad sandals, checkerboard prints, and chunky plastic rings. These microtrends gain rapid popularity on platforms like TikTok, only to fade away within weeks.

Microtrends are to trends what ultra-fast fashion is to fashion. It's no surprise that both of them are closely intertwined.

Fast fashion and ultra-fast fashion brands like Shein and Cider capitalize on these microtrends, releasing new clothes every day. According to Shein’s COO, Molly Miao, it released 700 to 1,000 new items a day in 2022.

Unfortunately, these clothes are designed to last only as long as the microtrend, ending up in landfills after being worn once or twice.

They are made from plastic materials like polyester, nylon, and lycra and could take centuries to decompose. In the meantime, they pollute our land and water.

Fast fashion brands are not good for the people making them either. A 2021 Shein undercover Investigation found that workers making clothes for the brand worked more than 75 hours a week and got one day off a month. These workers were doing multiple jobs, and they were paid as little as 4 cents per item.

We understand the difficulty of resisting these microtrends. The pleasure and excitement of purchasing something new is hard to resist, especially when it's readily available every few weeks.

Also, as humans, we have an innate desire to belong, and microtrends provide a way to express our sense of belonging to others. But there are a few ways in which we can stay away from these microtrends.

How do you avoid microtrends?

It's easier said than done. If you find yourself getting caught up in a superficial adrenaline rush caused by a microtrend, take a moment to ask yourself questions like these:

  • Does it fit my style?
  • Do I know what will I wear this with?
  • Will I wear this in five years?
  • Does it align with my values?
  • Is it comfortable?

If the answer to these questions is “no,” it’s better to save your wallet and the planet. If you answer yes across the board, consider opting for secondhand items or having a clothing swap with friends to get it for free. 

Naman Bajaj
February 9, 2024

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